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Writing Against the Grain: B Movies. A Treatments and the Deceptive Familiar

I just received another happy review of Season One of This Plague of Days! (Dance of Joy ensues. Look away!)

On Writing TPOD

TPOD season 1 ecoverYou know, I made some artistic choices with TPOD that challenge the genre. For instance, the zombies don’t show up immediately. The hero is an autistic boy. I show the beginning of the crisis and how it evolves instead of waking someone up from a coma after civilization falls (a la Walking Dead and 28 Days Later.)

I’m pleased to report those gambles are paying off. (Great new reviews in the UK, too!) I’m getting extra points for doing something different. I wanted to give what some think of as a B movie idea an A treatment. I have a hero who is more in his world than ours. While things fall apart for his family, he’s obsessed with words, their meanings and roots and Latin phrases. It doesn’t sound very sexy in a submission letter to an agent, does it? However, horror fans are flexible readers who want to see something familiar made unfamiliar. To an agent, unfamiliar is not good at all. Readers are more forgiving because there are too many books out there that are clones of other books.

On Writing the Hit Man Series

When I wrote Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus, I ran into the same…problems? Opportunities? Challenges? I have an anti-authoritarian streak so I set myself up to fail and wrote the books I wanted to read instead of what an agent might get excited about. Don’t get me wrong, there are many very well-written hardboiled books out there. However, I pushed the boundaries and conventions of the genre with Jesus Diaz. I also tell the Hit Man Series stories in present tense and in second person. (AKA Agent Repellant.)

But there’s more. I made a hit man loveable and pitiable. I love the character of Dexter, though Jesus Diaz isn’t a psychopath in the same way at all. Unlike Dexter, Jesus Diaz is crushed by his regrets and guilt. I made my anti-hero the funny hit man with Chili Palmer overtones, a horrific childhood and the gift of gab. He’s made a more complex character due to a neurosis around women. He blames circumstances for his problems, but really the poisoned root of his abuse as a child informs the character and so the story. You won’t find another hardboiled hero who is afraid of women, but Jesus really is afraid.

Mr. Diaz just tapped me on the shoulder with the muzzle of his Sig Sauer to inform me I should change that from afraid of women to “worshipful”. I told him to buzz off. Kill me and he won’t see himself in the third and fourth novels of the series. He’s sulking in the corner, pretending to play Angry Birds on my iPod.

Books and their shelves

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_KindleBigger Than and Higher Than are unusual novels that defy convention so hard, I’m not even sure they are properly called hardboiled. Maybe they’re action adventure or, despite the childhood sexual abuse, their also damn funny. It’s a rich palette, I guess. Agents hate that in genre novels.

Some so-called experts would suggest I’m making stupid choices. Maybe so. I’m singing “I gotta be me” while yanking the wheel and steering hard toward the ditch with the blinking warning sign that reads: Obviously Non-commercial!

I felt self-conscious about those gambles. Those choices are just as much about me as anything. See, I write for me. Readers come later. Sorry, but it’s true. That’s selfish considering I’m trying to contribute to the family budget with my writing instead of sucking it dry.

And then I read Stephen King’s Joyland yesterday.

Oh my god! It’s coming-of-age and funny. It’s Summer of ’42. It’s so damn charming it doesn’t even need the murder mystery. In fact, though it has a climactic scene worthy of JoylandHitchcock, I really would have loved it just as much without the mystery and the ghost story.

Traditional publishing didn’t know what to do with Stephen King. Even though the cover is terrific, the book is packaged as if Joyland is a hardboiled mystery. I don’t think it is. I think it’s good, easy storytelling that rolls along and you’ll be sorry the ride ever stops. It’s also high literature in a cloak that could appeal to anyone no matter how it’s classified or what shelf it’s on. 

I hope you’ll feel the same about my books because no matter what I do, that defiant streak is a mile wide and made of granite and diamonds. Some things I can’t change so I hope you like the view from my ride. 

And, not for nothing, thanks for the nice reviews, folks. I’m not for everyone but when those who get it leave a happy review, I push the accelerator harder and sing louder for our little club who are in the know.

Sure, I might hit the ditch, but we’ll go down screaming and laughing and grokking what it all means in the end. Let’s all grit our teeth and dare to be what we are while we can.

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Movie Review: World War Z


My GoodReads review of This Plague of Days: I wouldn’t believe it. You’ll have to read it.

This Plague of Days, Season 1This Plague of Days, Season 1 by Robert Chazz Chute

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wrote it so, yeah, five stars from me. It’s like two books in one where two groups of interesting characters are on a collision course. The stakes? Human extinction and the lives of people we care about. But since I wrote it, I wouldn’t believe me, either. I guess if apocalyptic fiction with more Latin phrases than Harry Potter has spells intrigues you, you’ll have to read it to see for yourself. I hope you enjoy it.

View all my reviews

 


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